Just me talking about costume-y kind of stuff
Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors. Good Omens was the second book by him I ever bought. The first thing I ever read by him was Don't Panic (about Douglas Adams, another of my favorite authors) that I read sometime after finishing The Hitchhiker's Guide trilogy but before Mostly Harmless came out in 1992. I adored Douglas Adams and watched the BBC television series of Hitchhiker's Guide on PBS whenever it came on. So although Don't Panic sat on one of my various bookshelves of every domicile in every city I have ever lived in, prominently displayed and well-thumbed, it was another 20 years before I read another book by Neil Gaiman. I made a friend in Waco who loved the Sandman comics, Neverwhere, and Terry Pratchett, who recommended Good Omens and the Discworld series to me at the same time way back somewhere in between 2006-08. Thanks Amanda!
I read Good Omens first, LOVED IT, then immediately purposed to rent every Discworld book I could get from my local library system and read them all, as much as I could, in publication order, because I'm OCD like that. In between Discworld books, when the library didn't have them or I couldn't find them at Half Price Books in Austin, I'd try to read some more of Neil Gaiman. The third book I read was Neverwhere because Amanda just loved it and I read in order of publication date, because of the aforementioned OCD. The first time I read it, it was waaaay too dark for me. In retrospect, that may have been because I was reading it immediately following my divorce and the same week that my son had been attacked by a dog and had to have 23 stitches in his face. Not a good time to read a book like Neverwhere.
In between my quest for more Discworld books I also read Stardust, American Gods, and Anansi Boys, but not Coraline. Being a newly divorced parent of a small child, I felt (or maybe I was warned by Amanda or possibly the movie preview) that this wouldn't sit well with my current state of mind so I avoided it and skipped ahead to Anansi Boys which made more sense it being a sort of sequel to American Gods. At some point maybe around 2012 I finally caught up to Sir Terry and had read all 45 previously published Discworld books and had just finished The Graveyard Book by Neil. I was fine with a baby boy's parents being murdered by that point, my son was 9 and the dog attack had been several years earlier. I was also happily re-married to another Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, and Douglas Adams fan, so we would get the books and then pass them back and forth. My husband was always better at keeping up with what new books were being published and when, so we always had the new ones right away.
While waiting for Neil to publish more fiction, I read his short stories, the Sandman graphic novels, and his non-fiction--The View From the Cheap Seats, which I particularly enjoyed. I finally got around to reading Coraline last summer and it wasn't nearly as bad as I was afraid it was going to be all those years ago. Or maybe it's just that the kids were so much older now. When you're a new parent, everything makes you cry. I then gave it to my 13 year old "chicks dig scars" son to read and he really liked it. He has a thing for dark and grotesque. So then I went back and reread Neverwhere and it was exactly as dark as I remembered but it wasn't nearly as gross the second time plus I finally understood what it was really about. I have now read Ocean at the End of the Lane, which made me cry, Odd and the Frost Giants, and am finally starting on Norse Mythology, all of which were read by my husband first and then passed to me. Despite my best efforts, I still haven't read everything Neil has written, but I am trying. We got M for Magic on CD and listened to it on our spring break trip to the Odessa Shakespeare Festival.
So if you love Neil Gaiman already, I'll tell you what you missed. If you aren't familiar with his work, then most of this won't make any damn sense. Go to your nearest library or bookshop and procure Good Omens immediately if not sooner. Then, once you've finished, come back here and read the rest of this blog.
So, Neil Gaiman fans, (I'm assuming if you're reading past the photo you have at least a passing familiarity with his work) here's what #Neilhimself talked about for several hours. There were questions cards so mostly he just answered questions and read stories in between questions.
He talked about writing Don't Panic with Douglas Adams and their relationship but spent more time talking about writing Good Omens with Terry Pratchett. I've heard/read a lot about how they met, what it was like to work together, lots of funny little anecdotes before. Neil talks about Terry quite often. I didn't know that Terry willed him one of his hats. He doesn't wear it because he says he looks rubbish in hats, but that if someone were making a film of a Jewish archaeologist fighting Nazis, he would come prepared with his hat for auditions and he would look the part. Here's a rather long video where you can hear him talk way more in depth about Terry Pratchett just three days after Sir Terry's death.
He also talked a little bit about his writing process. He uses different pens with differently coloured inks so that each day's writing is done in a different color. He does that so he can go back over time and see how productive he had been, or not. I would think it would also help track down bits that you wanted to go back to or fix because if you could remember what day you'd come up with that new bit, all you'd have to do is go back and find that color ink. It seems like that would be a real time saver.
He spent a lot of time talking about how writer's block is not a thing. You can get stuck, but that's an internal thing you can fix by taking some time off from that project and then switching to a different project. The phrase "Writer's Block" seems to him to be an external force that you have no control over. There is no external force that prevents writers from writing, so stop whining about it, and write something else until you figure out where the story you're stuck on needs to go next. That's his advice.
He read several short stories from Trigger Warning: "July" from "A Calendar of Tales", "Adventure Story" which he wrote for American Life magazine but they rejected because they said it was "too silly" and asked for a non-fiction piece instead, and "In Relig Odhrain". I haven't read Trigger Warning yet but I quite liked these pieces. Here's him reading "In Relig Odhrain" at an Amanda Palmer show in Tel Aviv in 2013.
This is Neil talking about how "A Calendar of Tales" came into being and ends with him reading "July". I love the imagery in this piece.
He read "Freya's Strange Wedding" from Norse Mythology. Who knew Thor was an idiot? I didn't because I haven't read it yet. Here's Neil promoting Norse Mythology on The Wall Street Journal Cafe. He talks about how he came to rewrite these tales and how Thor and Loki differ from the Marvel comics versions.
Neil read two deleted scenes from the screenplay that he's writing for Good Omens which is being done on Amazon, like American Gods on STARZ, with a big American budget, unlike the BBC. Until that drops, you'll have to be satisfied with the radio play. The deleted scenes were both set in Aziraphalel's bookshop, one in the past, and the other in the present day of the story.
In case you're a big fan of Starz's American Gods, and who's not?, he said he's quite pleased with the show and where it's going even if it is a bit different from the book. He's OK with it being a bit different. He's more than OK with the big budget. Season Two will be ten episodes and will drop on April 29, 2018 (probably). In case you haven't seen Season One yet, here's the trailer.
And, maybe even bigger news: Yes, there will be Neverwhere sequel and in fact, he's four chapters in. He said in February in The Guardian, that it would be called The Seven Sisters. In case you didn't know, the BBC did a television series of Neverwhere back in 1996 of 6 episodes and you can watch all of them on YouTube. Here's the official trailer.
Neil read "The Day the Saucers Came" which he told us is often read at weddings, which surprised him to find out. I hadn't read it before, so I was also wondering why anyone would read this at weddings until he got to the end. This is a fan-made animation with Neil reading the story as narration. It's quite good.
He was asked what was it like every day to be "Neil fucking Gaiman". He said that having a family keeps him grounded. The morning he found out his new book was the #1 best seller that week, his wife said, "Wonderful. Now take out the trash". Other things that are good for keeping your sense of perspective are babies that puke on you, cats that disdain you, but not dogs because they worship you even when you're rubbish.